For my final coop, I knew I wanted something international. This job will be leading Northeastern freshmen who were accepted to the January semester (Jan starts as we call them) on a fall semester abroad. I will TA one of their classes, organize their service-learning projects, lead them on excursions, tutor when necessary, help with homesickness and culture shock, and make sure everyone makes it home alive.
No, I don’t know where I’m going yet. I could be sent to Australia, London, Costa Rica, or Thesaloniki, Greece. Of course I prefer the developing nations, and the chance to be back in Latin America or the Mediterranean is amazing. It doesn’t hurt that this position is well compensated, and I felt better about it when Sheff said she feels like it fits my niche well. What exactly is that niche? Well I think it’s something like educational, socially-minded travel.
But I still had a lot of trouble with this one. It all comes back to the conundrum I’ve been having for the last few years: there are a lot of subjects that interest me, and whenever I’m doing something that doesn’t directly help people, I feel guilty. I feel like I’m slacking, like I’m a coward, like I’m taking the easy way out. It doesn’t help that so many people told me they think it isn’t challenging enough, hard core enough for me. Several people, after I told them I accepted the job, referred to it as babysitting. (side note: I will never understand why people think it’s okay to bash your job to your face, but it happens all the time at NU with coops.)
I did, however, find some great comfort from an unlikely source. The Global Poverty Impact groups that my friend Kevin started are interfaith conversations about equality, poverty, giving, eradicating poverty, why we care and the best way to help. We also make small, permanent lifestyle changes in order to spend more thoughtfully and set aside some money to go towards a cause of our choosing. I love how thought provoking this group is, how respectful and smart its members are, and the “Live Deliberately” ethos that I think anyone can get behind, regardless of their religious views.
But I digress. Jen, a social entrepreneurship person and member of my capstone class, had great insight.
“Just think abut how many freshman you will be effecting. You can teach them about all the opportunities they have to do good at Northeastern, and be a role model to them.”
It meant a lot to me to hear this from Jen, someone who has also struggled with how to combine socially-minded endeavors, earning money, furthering a career and getting the most out of Northeastern. When I think about it that way, N.U.in still helps me with the mission I once (and still?) have:
I want to travel to parts of the world with injustice, spend my time there in a meaningful way, and learn their stories so I may tell them on their behalf. If I can make people understand and care using the gift of my writing, I can catalyze more action than I ever could have accomplished as just one person.
At the time, I was assuming that fact-based fictional stories, plays, or screenplays would be my method. I never even considered blogging or any sort of journalism, which now seems like such a silly omission. If I can use service-learning, reflection and this time abroad (perhaps in a less-developed country) to instill an ethic of global awareness and helping others in a useful way, I can consider working for N.U.in a success, and progress toward my mission. When I think about how much impact Julie Miller had on all of us in Benin, this seems attainable. Because of her, we were more thoughtful, patient, cooperative, positive and open-minded individuals.
So I am genuinely excited about this job, and the possibilities it brings.